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Is it possible to have too much of a good thing — especially when that “good thing” is actually a bad thing?
Ed Royce has been inundating the mailboxes of voters in recent weeks. We’ve been getting like two mailers a day, most of them nasty attacks on his opponent Jay Chen, all paid for directly by (and thus the direct responsibility of) his campaign. Last October 17, as you’ll see if you look at his shirt collar, he still had about $1.22 million to spend left in the bank. My bet is that a lot of that, too, is gone. He’s fighting for his political life this year against the upstart Jay Chen and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t pretty much spend it all out. (He can always go back to the big banks, who are regulated by the House Committee that he chairs, and get more for 2014.)
To some extent, the sheer volume of those mailers sends it own message — and it’s not one that Royce should like. Sure, it makes his consultant Evil Dave Gilliard smile — I think that, like Democratic consultants, he gets a commission on them — but I’m not sure that it does Ed Royce himself any good. Sending out that many mailers stinks of desperation. An incumbent who is way ahead, who beat Chen by 36 points in a race where Chen saved his money and didn’t compete, by spending $2.1 million so that he could assure everyone that his race was in the bag, is not supposed to be acting this way. It smells like flop sweat.
Evil Dave Gilliard has picked up the word “desperate” and tried applying it to Jay Chen — arguing that Chen’s protesting the racist attacks on him and his campaign, and Royce’s failure to acknowledge or speak out meaningfully against them, are an act of desperation. They are, of course, no such thing. They’re the responsibility that a member of a racial or ethnic or religious minority group has to do “double duty” — not only to defend himself but also to defend his larger community from bigotry, because he carries so many people’s hopes with him. When people call him racist names, he’s going to speak out because he has to — and good for him!
It’s a severe understatement to say that Ed Royce does not appear to get this. He, after all, has made what mark he’s made through attacking Latinos and attacking Muslims — but I certainly didn’t expect him to compound that this year by attacking Asian-Americans as well. But there Royce has gone — perhaps led by Evil Dave Gilliard pulling on a rope tied to a ring looped through his nose — talking about the evils of inscrutable, mysterious, deceitful Chinese people.
Oh, Royce (through Gilliard) asserts that he’s (that is, Gilliard) referring only towards Jay Chen, his brother Shaw, and maybe a few others, when he puts out flyers with Jay looking dictatorial in sunglasses (worn rarely and then in bright sunlight), and using the colors of the flag of the People’s Republic of China. But both bigots and that targets of bigots get what’s going on, even if bystanders to bigotry don’t. It’s despicable. The fliers that he’s put out so far will ensure that, if Royce somehow wins, this will be his last race, because money would then flow in over the next two years to support Chen’s rematch. His fliers have been that bad, that offensive — they can only work so long as people don’t have time to check them out.
I can tell you — as someone who had once planned on writing about each of Royce’s fliers — there were just too many of the suckers, coming out too quickly, to check out and rebut. That was the point of them — to give the appearance of such overwhelming force that voters could not or would not focus on the content of the arguments.
So for voters in the 39th Congressional district, the question is this: who will do the best job of actually representing the district over the next two years? Ed Royce, even if he squeaks by, is going to be embittered by the realization that his Congressional career is over — between Asians, Latinos, and Muslims, he’s now insulted well over half of the registered electorate — and there are a lot of sympathetic whites here too who can’t stand what he’s been doing. So, for Royce, these next two years will involve helping to block Obama’s legislation and sucking up to whoever will be his new employer — for whom he can lobby (and what else is he really good for?) as soon as ethics either allow it or can be evaded.
Jay Chen, by contrast, can settle in for what may be a long stay in the area. He has strong ties to all of the minority communities and has become beloved by the Democrats throughout it. He has reason and motivation to bring back federal help for the district — and to start building up his seniority and influence in Congress.
Even everything else aside, what Chen would do in office is really good for this district. He’s in it for the long haul, ready to be the sort of representative we want and deserve. Royce would just be collecting a paycheck and marking time — which frankly would be an improvement over his being intensively involved in drafting legislation.
Royce is desperate not to go out a loser this year — and in the wild charges and vicious demeanor of his mailers, his desperation shows. Voting against the sort of record he’s established in this campaign should and will be a pleasure for Democrats, Independents, third parties, and even those Republicans who know that their party can be better than the bigotry that Royce has to offer.
So, if Jay Chen is the future of the district, the question becomes — why wait? Voters should embrace the future and purge the scent of flop sweat from their mailboxes. They can do both by supporting Jay Chen.